Weir publishes guidance on new school day

Date published: 13 August 2020

Education Minister Peter Weir has today published revised guidance setting out how schools should plan for the new school day.

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The New School Day guidance outlines proposals for the full reopening of schools at the start of the new school year.

Progressing from the New School Day Guidance issued in June, this updated guidance takes account of advice from the Chief Medical Officer, Michael McBride and Chief Scientific Officer, Ian Young. We have also drawn from published information from SAGE.

Minister Weir said: “My strategic objective has always been for the full-time resumption of classroom-based learning for all pupils as soon as possible, and when appropriate to do so.  

“This latest guidance takes into account the Executive’s agreement of 6 August that the requirement for strict social distancing between children may be relaxed in the presence of other mitigations.  

“In many ways, it reinforces practices we have all become accustomed to, promoting regular hygiene practices on arrival at schools and throughout the school day, and the application of the “catch it, bin it, kill it” principles. 

“It also acknowledges that current social distancing guidance of 2m must continue to be followed between adults within the education sector.”

The guidance is part of an overall Restart Programme and has been co-designed by the Department of Education, school leaders and key partners. Engagement with a consultation group comprising Managing Authorities, trade unions and sectoral support bodies as part of an ongoing process has been in place since March 2020.We will continue to work with the consultation group and school leaders and key partners as we move forward.

Minister Weir continued: “I have at all times recognised the stresses felt by teachers, parents and pupils due to the ongoing disruption and uncertainty regarding the future.  

“That is why I would urge all in our society to continue to play their part in addressing the challenges posed by Covid-19.

“The first step in keeping our schools safe is that anyone with symptoms should not attend school. Parents should not send their children to school if they have any of the Covid-19 symptoms such as:

a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

“Within school, in circumstances where strict social distancing between children cannot reasonably be applied, the use of ‘protective bubbles’, decreasing interaction and movement around the school must be followed.  This additional mitigating measure has been applied successfully by other countries in their arrangements for reopening of schools.

“The guidance also promotes a flexible approach to use of existing spaces as a means of maximising face-to-face teaching opportunities and provides the framework within which workforce planning can now be developed.”

Concluding the Minister said: “This guidance will remain agile and will continue to reflect public health advice. We will continue to keep under review all medical and scientific developments.”  


Notes to editors: 

  1. The Department of Education’s Education Restart Programme identifies five priority work-streams to deliver reopening of schools.
  2. Priority 5 – New School Day – focuses on the development of guidance to inform “day-one” operations. Click for the New School Day guidance here.
  3. A Practitioner Group, facilitated by the Department and informed by two sub-groups, one representing pre-school and primary interests and one for post-primary, was established to develop the framework guidance and has been meeting twice-weekly since the beginning of June.  The group comprises of 20 principals (pre-school /primary and post primary with special schools represented on both).  The principals were nominated by managing authorities/sectoral support bodies and trades unions to ensure they are reflective of all phases and sectors. Further co-design on boarding school guidance took place with all boarding school principals
  4. The Executive agreed the plan for Education Restart at its meeting on 6 August
  5. Follow us on Twitter @Education_ni(external link opens in a new window / tab)
  6. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office at
  7. The Executive Information Service operates an out-of-hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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